Each month, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) tracks the on-time performance of Australia's major airlines. The latest figures (for November 2012) have 82 per cent of flights departing on time, while 78 per cent land on schedule. Qantas is just ahead of Virgin in terms of punctuality, but the gap is very small.
Picture from Wikimedia Commons
The BITRE figures only track airport routes with more than 8000 passengers a month (averaged over the preceding six months) and with competition by at least two airlines. There are 58 of those in Australia. The definitions of timeliness are also fairly generous to the operators: any departure or arrival within 15 minutes of arrival is counted as on time. Virgin's ATR/F100 figures represent its smaller regional routes, including those operated by Skywest.
|Airline||Sectors scheduled||Sectors flown||On time departures||%||On time arrivals||%||Cancellations||%|
|Virgin Australia (ATR/F100 Operations)||1788||1760||1487||84.5%||1408||80%||28||1.6%|
For Australian domestic airlines, the odds of your flight being cancelled are slight. Even on the Canberra-Sydney route, the option most affected by cancellations, the figures are relatively low: 3.9 per cent from Canberra-Sydney and 3.6 per cent in the reverse direction.
As that number suggests, variation is more evident on some routes than others, and being in a crowded city isn't always the cause. The airport with the lowest level of on-time departures was Ayers Rock (pictured above), with just 60 per cent of tracked flights taking off on time. Similarly, the lowest figure for on-time arrivals was found at Albury (66.6 per cent). (Both those airports also support routes which aren't tracked by the study; adding those flights would presumably lower the percentages.)
Melbourne-Sydney accounts for 2152 flights during the period, while Sydney-Melbourne covers 2147. Collectively, the Sydney-Melbourne route accounts for just under 10 per cent of total flights tracked.
One evident trend is that timeliness is better for full-fare airlines than for bargain options: Tiger and Jetstar bottom out the rankings for overall punctuality.